Special Education

A bi-partisan group of PA lawmakers recognized that the way Pennsylvania pays for special education services is broken and unfair. In 2014, a commission was convened and members spent months traveling throughout the commonwealth to meet with parents of children with special needs and other stakeholders. The result of their hard work was a new, thoroughly-planned and fair system for funding special education in Pennsylvania that would allocate all new state special education funding based on a three-tired system designed to match the state funding level with the actual cost of meeting the needs of students school districts are educating. Read more about the special education funding formula HERE.

The commission recommended that new state special education funding in the 2014-2015 budget ($20 million) be distributed to both school systems and charter schools based on the level of services that students need and the cost of providing these services to students. 

Unfortunately, the very powerful charter school lobby was successful in its efforts to exempt charter schools from receiving state funding based on the new formula. Today charter schools continue to receive their special education allocations based on the state’s flawed system that sent more than $200 million in excess special education funding to charter schools that was NOT used to provide services to students who have special needs. When some schools receive and keep more special education dollars than they are spending on services for children, these schools are reaping a financial advantage at the expense of children with special needs in Pennsylvania. 

The problem with using the current, flawed system for funding special education for charter schools was in the spotlight in the fall of 2015 in the financially-distressed Chester-Upland School District, which had been mandated by state law to pay a rate $40,000 per special education student to charter schools. This rate is far more than it costs charter schools to provide services to children. Read more about the Chester-Upland issue HERE (Link to blog about Chester-Upland).

Education Voters believes that the special education funding formula should be applied to both school systems and charter schools alike.

  • State special education funding should be distributed to both school systems and charter schools based on the level of services that students need. Allocating taxpayer dollars differently to school districts and charter schools doesn’t make sense. All of our public schools should receive funding distributed by the same allocation formula.
  • State special education funding should be spent ONLY on providing students with services. Any excess special education funding should be returned to the state and allocated to help other children get the services they need. If some schools receive and keep more special education dollars than they are spending on services for children, these schools are reaping a financial advantage at the expense of children with special needs in Pennsylvania. 
  • If the legislature chooses to freeze special education funding at current levels for charter schools, no additional money should accrue to charter schools based on the old, flawed system for funding special education. Any new special education funding for charter schools must be based on the new law and fair to ALL of Pennsylvania’s special needs children.